‘Bad’ in the name is a clue to this charming small town’s fame: Bad refers to the natural hot mineral springs that have eased aching bones since medieval times. Overlooking the River Rhine at the southern tip of the Black Forest, the area is known for its warm summers. And Stein, a town in Switzerland, is just a stroll away across the Rhine on the 300-year-old, pedestrian-only, wooden bridge. At 200 m/670 ft in length, this is Europe’s longest covered bridge. And, if you do decide to walk across, take your passport!
For Germans, the town is best known for “The Trumpeter of Säckingen", a romantic love story by 19th-century writer, Joseph Victor von Scheffel. It was later transformed into an opera. In town, look out for depictions of the trumpeter. Here, in a fountain; there, on the wall of Schloss Schönau. This palace is Bad Säckingen’s main attraction and its museum holds a vast collection of trumpets and bugles dating from the 17th century to the present day. See the instruments, then stroll round the lovely gardens, right on the Rhine.
Dominating the town are the twin towers of Fridolinsmünster, St Fridolin’s Cathedral. They still look much as they did back in 1802, when JMW Turner sketched them as he made his way along the Rhine. Named after a 6th-century Irish missionary, the building has layers of history, culminating in the 18th-century Baroque flair that is so impressive today. Don’t miss the unusual shrine, created by a skilful silversmith back in 1764. There are also regular organ concerts.
Bad Säckingen at a glance
- Where: 2.5 hrs southwest of Stuttgart; spa town on the River Rhine in the southern foothills of the Black Forest
- Population: 17,000
- Climate: Long warm summers; delightful in autumn
- Landmarks: Europe's longest covered wooden bridge; the cathedral; the trumpet collection in the museum
- Weekly Market: Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7am to about 1pm
Enjoy the beneficial effects of the local natural mineral springs. Try the AQUALON thermal spa with its indoor and outdoor pools, where the water is a steady 34°C/93°F. Relax with a massage or Eastern wellness treatments: salt peeling, Asa Hi Sauna or the herbal sauna. The Japanese quiet room and garden are perfect for meditation.
Eating and shopping
The cathedral square is Bad Säckingen’s social hub, with tables and chairs spilling out from cafés. Explore the winding streets and you find one-of-a-kind shops as well as the modern Beck-Arkaden shopping arcade, with everything from clothing to food. Bakeries and patisseries in town make Rheinkiesel, sweets that look like the stones you see in the River Rhine.
Known for its ‘farm to table’ philosophy, the Genuss-Apotheke is a restaurant set in a former pharmacy. Raimar Pilz and Annett Ronneberger have been awarded a Michelin star for modern dishes that feature fresh local produce. Watch them at work in the open kitchen (11 Schönaugasse).
Tea or cocktails?
On the banks of the Rhine, the Teehäuschen, Little Teahouse, is actually an elegant, 300-year-old pavilion, decorated with Baroque frescoes. In the grounds of Schönau Palace overlooking the Rhine, the teahouse terrace is a lovely spot for coffee or cocktails. In summer, relax at the Caribbean-style beach bar, with its palm trees and sand.
To herald the start of Lent, this part of Germany is known for its carnival celebrations. In Bad Säckingen, expect parades and cannon blasts from dawn. The scary carved wooden masks are all part of the fun.
Parking is right next to the Schlosspark, overlooking the Rhine. Open year-round, it is within easy walking distance of the town centre.